extract from The Origins and Meaning of Fairy Tales, chapter1.
It would take a very great book to give many examples of the myths and stories which are alike in all the Aryan countries; but we may see by one instance what the likeness is; and it shall be a story which all will know when they read it:
Once upon a time there was a Hindu Rajah, who had an only daughter, who was born with a golden necklace. In this necklace was her soul; and if the necklace were taken off and worn by some one else, the Princess would die.
On one of her birthdays the Rajah gave his daughter a pair of slippers with ornaments of gold and gems upon them. The Princess went out upon a mountain to pluck the flowers that grew there, and while she was stooping to pluck them one of her slippers came off and fell down into a forest below.
A Prince, who was hunting in the forest, picked up the lost slipper, and was so charmed with it that he desired to make its owner his wife. So he made his wish known everywhere, but nobody came to claim the slipper, and the poor Prince grew very sad.
At last some people from the Rajah’s country heard of it, and told the Prince where to find the Rajah’s daughter; and he went there, and asked for her as his wife, and they were married.
Sometime after, another wife of the Prince, being jealous of the Rajah’s daughter, stole her necklace, and put it on her own neck, and then the Rajah’s daughter died. But her body did not decay, nor did her face lose its bloom; and the Prince went every day to see her, for he loved her very much although she was dead.
Then he found out the secret of the necklace, and got it back again, and put it on his dead wife’s neck, and her soul was born again in her, and she came back to life, and they lived happy ever after.
This Hindu story of the lost slipper is met with again in a legend of the ancient Greeks, which tells that while a beautiful woman, named Rhodopê — or the rosy-cheeked — was bathing, an eagle picked up one of her slippers and flew away with it, and carried it off to Egypt, and dropped it in the lap of the King of that country, as he sat at Memphis on the judgment-seat. The slipper was so small and beautiful that the King fell in love with the wearer of it, and had her sought for, and when she was found he made her his wife.
Another story of the same kind. It is found in many countries, in various forms, and is that of Cinderella, the poor neglected maiden, whom her stepmother set to work in the kitchen, while her sisters went to the grand balls and feasts at the King’s palace. You know how Cinderella’s fairy godmother came and dressed her like a princess, and sent her to the ball; how the King’s son fell in love with her; how she lost one of her slippers, which the Prince picked up; how he vowed that he would marry the maiden who could fit on the lost slipper; how all the ladies of the court tried to do it, and failed, Cinderella’s sisters amongst them; and how Cinderella herself put on the slipper, produced the fellow to it, was married to the King’s son, and lived happily with him.
Now the story of Cinderella helps us to find out the meaning of our Fairy Tales; and takes us back straight to the far-off land where fairy legends began, and to the people who made them. Cinderella, and Rhodopê, and the Hindu Rajah’s daughter, and the like, are but different forms of the same ancient myth. It is the story of the Sun and the Dawn. Cinderella, grey and dark, and dull, is all neglected when she is away from the Sun, obscured by the envious Clouds her sisters, and by her stepmother the Night. So she is Aurora, the Dawn, and the fairy Prince is the Morning Sun, ever pursuing her, to claim her for his bride. This is the legend as we find it in the ancient Hindu sacred books; and this explains at once the source and the meaning of the Fairy Tale.
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